Fr Noel O’Neill is a Columban Missionary working in South Korea. He has written about his ‘Emmaus’ ministry with disabled people in Far East Magazine, September-October 2022, pp10-11. Here he tells about the sacramental faith of a group of women residents during challenging times.
‘My Jesus, Come spiritually into my soul’!
Throughout the pandemic we insisted that our people living in group homes refrain from going to the parish church because they were so vulnerable. They watched the Sunday Mass on TV.
There are four very fervent middle-aged women with Down’s Syndrome living in one of Emmaus’ group homes. I am sure that Jesus smiled when He saw them go up to the front of the TV and put out their hands to receive the host as the priest was giving out Holy Communion. Perhaps it was the same kind of smile he gave the two Emmaus disciples who recognised him in the breaking of bread.
You can count on the Plough magazine to have an interesting story to tell. Father Bryce Lungren is a priest and cowboy in Wyoming, a cattle state in America. He set off for seminary and left his boots behind. “When Christ calls, you drop the nets,” he said. Cowboying, he reckoned, was behind him for good. He was mistaken.
His spirituality takes materiality and the natural world seriously, in a way that fits well with the sacramental framework of the Church, which sees earthly things as imbued with divine importance. “I never got much out of the playing-harps-on-a-cloud stuff. Heaven to me looks more like the kind of work I love doing out here.” He continues, “We’re not just spirits trapped in bodies. Our bodies aren’t just something disposable, and our souls are the ‘real deal.’ Our bodies and our souls make us what we are. We aren’t just angels. I guess I’d call my world view, I don’t have a good word for it yet, but I guess I’d call it incarnational.*
There has been many a battle within the Church, as well as in wider society, to persuade people to accept and treat those with learning difficulties as full and equal members. In the 1980’s and later we were still facing priests who refused to admit children to the sacraments ‘because, bless him, he doesn’t need it, he’s not reached the age of reason. He’ll never understand.’ (As if anyone fully understands the Eucharist at a rational level.)
A sister I once knew was catechist to a boy who had little spoken language; she prepared him for First Communion until the day before, when she brought along an unconsecrated wafer to enact the moment of receiving the Host. He held out his hands with such reverence; he made his First Communion there and then, she said.
That story came to mind when I read this passage from Archbishop Williams’s latest book. Regular readers will know that Agnellus’ Mirror is very fond of L’Arche. It’s good to find insights from someone else. I pray that we in L’Arche may always be consistent and life-sustaining.
It is essential for us to think about the ‘rationality’ of those we stigmatise, patronise, ignore and exclude whose mental capacity is not what we define as ‘normal’. The response of gratitude, affection, human sensitivity, ability to relate and cooperate that is visible, for example, in members of the L’Arche communities, where people with significant learning challenges live alongside those who do not have such challenges, should make us hesitate about defining the limits of ‘rationality’ without reference to such relational qualities. We may begin to see ‘reasoning’ as a richly analogical term, with an application to any form of consistent and life-sustaining adjustment to the environment, human and non-human.
From ‘Looking east in winter, contemporary thought and the Eastern Christian tradition’, Rowan WIlliams, London, Bloomsbury Continuum, 2021.
Earlier this month the regulations for recording marriages were changed; after centuries of pen and paper, it’s going digital. Rev Jo Richards of Saints Dunstan, Mildred and Peter marked the occasion with this post and special prayers.
Marriage Registers: There are significant changes in the Registration of Marriages – this will no longer take place during the marriage ceremony – be it in a church/chapel/registry office or licensed venue. Rather the couple will sign a Marriage Document (or Schedule) during the service. This is returned by the minister who conducts the service within 21 days, to the General Registry Office (GRO) – it is from there that the couple have to get their marriage certificate and where the marriage is now electronically registered, rather than being given the certificate on the day. The marriage certificate is also somewhat different with the inclusion of mothers – since their inception in 1837 only father and father’s rank/profession were on the document. Now the mother’s details are included, along with their occupation. It was this that triggered the changes – along with the GRO going electronic. Needless to say we have had training both by the GRO and CofE for marriages that will take place from today onwards. The other change is that the new certificate is portrait (previously landscape) and we can include up to 4 parents (e.g. step-parents) and 6 witnesses. We do however have to have a ‘register of marriage services’ book. This will be a special book, as we have for burials, baptisms and confirmations. This is just filled out by the minister, again as per other occasional offices. This is also an historical moment, and I attach the prayers that I said in St Dunstan’s on Sunday, to acknowledge the closure of the two Registers there, and I will do likewise for both St Peter’s and St Mildred’s this coming Sunday. We are permitted to keep one Register in church for historical reasons, and the other returns to the GRO. We no longer provide replacement certificates, again all through the centralised GRO. There is no change as far as Banns are concerned – what is called ‘marriage preliminaries’ remain the same, and the marriage service is the same – rather than ‘signing of the registers’ it will be ‘signing of the marriage document’ – and will be a lot quicker – one piece of paper rather than three! And we can still take photos!
At the Closing of the Marriage Registers
The duplicate register books are placed on view, with the blank entries struck through as required by law. This or similar might be read by the minister.
The Church has been closely involved in witnessing and solemnising marriages since the 11th century, and from the Reformation parishes were required to keep written record of all those married in their churches, a requirement formalised in Canon 70 of 1610, which remained in force until the 18th century. The Marriage Act 1836 provided for the duplicate green register books with we are all so familiar, and whose use comes to an end today. For centuries it has been our privilege as a church, entrusted to us by the state, to keep these legal records of marriages. Herein have been recorded the acts of loving commitment made by successive couples, witnessed by their friends and family and recorded on their behalf by our clergy. In years to come the legal record of all marriages will be held nationally by the Registrar-General, but we shall still rejoice to welcome couples to marry here, and pray that God will bless and support them in their unions. Today we give thanks for the duty of record that has been ours.
A Prayer of Thanksgiving for Marriages
Almighty God, we thank you for the gift of love and remember the many men and women who have stood in this place to make their vows to one another, and whose names are written in these registers [and those before them]. We thank you for all the joy and fruitfulness born of their marriages. We remember: Those whose faithfulness was lifelong and who are now at rest. Those who were widowed and bore long grief, or who married again. Those whose marriages, begun in hope did not bring them joy, or which ended how they did not intend. We remember also the fathers, whose names are recorder here, and the mothers, whose names are not; the friends and relations who bore witness to the weddings, and the clergy who solemnised them. Give us grace to remember all that is past with thanksgiving and with love, committing to your care and healing sorrows which cannot now be changed in this world, but which will find peace through the grace of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
A Prayer of Thanksgiving for Records
God of order and peace, we thank you for the means by which the turnings of our lives are faithfully recorded, and for those who keep the records with diligence. For the means they offer for truth-telling and justice, and the record of memory of generations past. As we prepare to commit these records to the archives, help us to leave the past in your care, and renew our trust in your changeless mercy, that brings us life and wholeness in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The register books are closed.
A Prayer for Marriages Yet To Come
Loving God, we pray for those who will come to this place to declare their love in time to come; for those planning weddings here in coming years, those whose love is yet unkindled and the generations still stored up in your bounty that they may live and love in the freedom of your creation. May this place be to them a sign that their earthly love is a sign of your eternal love, that raised Jesus Christ from the dead and that holds us in life until we come to the kingdom prepared for us in him.
Intention for Evangelization: – Sacrament Of Reconciliation Let us pray that we may experience the Sacrament of Reconciliation with renewed depth, to taste the infinite mercy of God.
Pope Francis and his advisors could hardly have foreseen the difficulties surrounding the Sacraments this Lent! How can we taste the infinite mercy of God at this time?
Here we see Francis opening a Door of Mercy at the beginning of his Year of Mercy; and quite a dramatic opening it was, too! The two acolytes making sure the doors don’t bang.Maybe we can set ourselves the task of opening our hearts this Lent to let the sunshine of forgiveness in and perhaps we might share a little with one or two confidants to make sure we don’t go overboard and hurt ourselves.
Now another door of mercy from Zakopane in Poland. Open and welcoming, especially decorated for the occasion. Notice the image of the good shepherd or Samaritan figure, seen below in close-up.
This was the logo of the Year of Mercy, but carved in the local style for this community and for all the visitors, like us, who called by to pray. The motto says Merciful like the Father. Quite a challenge! Mercy is not something to treasure like that single talent, but something to be lived by being merciful.
And finally this photo has been cropped to show the words, Porta Misericordiae, Door of Mercy. I can’t find the original which had the backs of people’s heads and shoulders. It’s easy to tidy other people out of sight, when really we are, as this year of covid reminds us, all in this together. So not just, Have mercy on me, a sinner, but also, Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on US. Let us pray for each other, and when we can and however we can, let us offer each other a sign of peace.
Christina Rossetti called the poem from which this is taken ‘Advent’. My working title for this post was ‘Noli me tangere: Christ’s ‘do not hold me’ to Mary on Easter morning, and I would have used it for Easter week had I not received the last two posts from Tim and Sheila; it fits in nicely here, on the day when the Sun peeps over the horizon in Greenland: winter is on his way out!
I’ve been careful these last weeks: as I write our county is a hotspot of Covid19 and my family want to hold me fast for a while longer. We do appreciate what a blessing touch is, with two young grandsons to ram the message home. But only essential shopping is being done in person and we have been attending Mass on-line, at our own parish except when our tech or the church’s was malfunctioning. As my wife says, perhaps the best thing we can do is to keep away from infection and not take up the health service’s time. And take the vaccination when offered. But it also means not attending the most popular Masses. That’s one of those things we have to accept. But the Mass is the one sacrifice; it can be said to have begun with the Nativity (or even the Annunciation) and continued through the passion that, as Rowan Williams reminds us, was Christ’s life, to the passion that was his death and resurrection. My attending on a computer screen instead of in the pew does not reduce its saving efficacy.
And as Christina Chase suggested to me, this absent-presence can lead to a greater desire to receive Christ sacramentally, making St Alphonsus’ Spiritual Communion a prayer powerful in our own lives. But here is that other Christina, Christina Rossetti:
We weep because the night is long, We laugh, for day shall rise, We sing a slow contented song And knock at Paradise.
Weeping we hold Him fast Who wept For us,–we hold Him fast; And will not let Him go except He bless us first or last.”
( Advent from “Poems” by Christina Georgina Rossetti)
At his birth, Jesus had nowhere to lay his head, his camp was small indeed. Joyce Kilmer, writing early last Century, was optimistic that Jesus was known throughout the world and welcome in every land. We see a different picture today.
There is also the Real Presence in the Sacrament – again, not so readily available to us as it was to Kilmer. But if not through the lips, the King of Glory may enter my Spirit though my ears and eyes. O Come, O come, Emmanuel!
No longer of Him be it said
"He hath no place to lay His head."
In every land a constant lamp
Flames by His small and mighty camp.
There is no strange and distant place
That is not gladdened by His face.
And every nation kneels to hail
The Splendour shining through Its veil.
Cloistered beside the shouting street,
Silent, He calls me to His feet.
Imprisoned for His love of me
He makes my spirit greatly free.
And through my lips that uttered sin
The King of Glory enters in."
I remembered the name, Ember Days, but had forgotten what they were about; the term disappeared from Catholic parlance. Rev Jo reminds us in her latest post. Let’s pray for all ordinands in all churches this Petertide.
Good morning everyone, it certainly thundered first thing this morning, with some welcome rain, but all seems well now. Hope you are all well, as we are here.
Thoughts and prayers today for all our ordinands and deacons today – tomorrow they should have been in the Cathedral, ordained as deacons, priests, with priests looking forward to taking their first communion on Sunday – but none of that is to be. Though I do understand that the ordinands will be going to their new prarishes, and to be ordained in September.
Today is also referred to as an Ember Day – the lectionary describes this as “Ember days should be kept, at the bishop’s directions, in the week before an ordination as days of prayer for those to be ordained as deacon or priest. Ember days may also be kept even when there is no ordination in the diocese as more general days of prayer for those who serve in the church in its various ministries, both lay and ordained and for all vocations. So please do keep them in your prayers. It was six years ago on Sunday that I was ordained deacon here in Canterbury. A day to remember!!
Apologies it’s late, another zoom meeting!
Keep safe, keep connected and keep prayingJo🙏🙏🙏 Rev Jo Richards Rector of the Benefice of St Dunstan, St Mildred and St Peter, Canterbury
From Rev Jo’s daily briefing for yesterday, 12 June. Preparations are afoot to reopen our churches: it’s not just a matter of turning the key.
Good morning everyone, and hope you are well, as we continue to be here at the Rectory. A brief note this morning, as I have a funeral first thing (thank you John for leading Morning Prayer), and then meeting with Mary, churchwarden for St Mildred’s as we go into church to start planning the logistics for worship. Rachel (churchwarden) and I met yesterday at St Peter’s and did likewise. All St Peter’s folk – all is well, and we were working out seating in there – slightly easier as it is chairs. Of course it depends if the government reduces the social distancing from 2 metres. We were there with tape measure working it all out; it is also working out the flow etc – again a steep learning curve for us all! But that is what life is about – they say a lifetime of learning!I will send out service information for Sunday later today, and please access our youtube channel for Morning Prayer. From today’s psalm: 17: 8 “keep me as the apple of your eye, and hide me under the shadow of your wings” God Bless, and keep well, keep connected and keep praying. Jo🙏🙏🙏 Rev Jo Richards, Rector of the Benefice of St Dunstan, St Mildred and St Peter, Canterbury
And here is an extract from St Thomas’s Catholic Church in Canterbury, tackling the problems in a different building, and one that traditionally is open for private prayer every day. REOPENING THE CHURCH From Monday, we have been given permission to open our churches for private prayer. Archbishop John Wilson in his letter to the clergy says “It is imperative that any church which does open is fully compliant with the obligatory prerequisites. It is important to emphasise that this date (15th June) is the date from which Churches may open and not the date on which churches must open. The limitations of particular church buildings, the availability of volunteers, and the requirement of the Risk Assessment, may all mean that some churches, perhaps the majority of our churches, may not be able to open immediately or in the short term”. The Parish Pastoral Council are meeting to finalise our Risk Assessment which will then need to be approved by Canon John O’Toole, the Episcopal Vicar for Kent. This is the first step on the road back to restoring the full sacramental, pastoral, and liturgical life of the Church. Please pray that we can move forward safely. Amen to that for St Thomas’, St Mildred’s and all our church buildings.
Good morning to you all, and hope this finds you well on this slightly damp morning, as we all are here. Today, in the church year is Corpus Christi, also known as The Day of Thanksgiving for the Institution of Holy Communion. It always falls the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, and two months on from Maundy Thursday (what a lot has happened in that time). Corpus Christi is a festival that has been celebrated by many Christians, particularly the Catholic Church, in honour of the Eucharist since 1246. The name “Corpus Christi” is a Latin phrase that refers to the body of Christ. In this context it is acknowledging the ‘real presence’ of Christ in the consecrated bread and wine. I know in St Peter’s and St Mildred’s there has been a tradition of having services in our churches on this day, with a special liturgy, produced by the Church of England. Of course we all have our own understanding of what happens at the Eucharist, for some Christ’s presence is real in the consecrated bread and wine, for some it is a memorial, and for others probably somewhere in between. During this lockdown, I am acutely conscious that many have not been able to receive communion. Although each week as I celebrate here at the Rectory, I do so on behalf of you all, each and every one of you. and I do sense that you are present with me (which is why I live-stream and not pre-record). However I do recognise how difficult this must be, to be fasting from communion and something to reflect upon, particularly as we anticipate the opening of our churches for worship (no date set). I also recognise that for some even when we are permitted to open for public worship, you will feel it is too soon, and would rather stay at home – and I fully respect that. That is why we are looking to continue life-stream services, particularly from St Dunstan’s where there is some 4G, and the possibility of extending wifi from hall to church building.
Thankyou Jo, for showing us how feelings are very similar in our two church families.
Greyfriars is within Rev Jo’s benefice, either in St Peter’s or St Mildred’s parish, so it feels appropriate to use these two pictures today. You can read a little about the friary that was there if you click on the link: Greyfriars, our first home in Canterbury.